Jo Nesbo is an engaging novelist, a plot builder but not so lost in intricacies as to make the leader lose the thread if not their interest, something I found a deficiency in Robert Ludlum works. A magnetising story teller he pulls the reader close even when discoursing on what seems the most mundane of matters.
I had watched the film that had emerged from this book and was engrossed by it in a way that I didn’t think I would be. Part of the Scandinavian crime fiction genre that I have grown to love, there is something very Americanised about his writing style. Despite the first person narrative reflecting and explaining, there is not the same sense of moodiness and brooding that often comes with the more Nordic writers.
Roger Brown is a very driven character. He needs to be to keep the woman he loves in the style that she has become accustomed to. Since meeting her in London where he also got married, he has been on a mission to keep her happy. But there is a certain tension. She wants a child and he knows he cannot afford it. As it is, she has no idea of the risks he takes to finance the lavish life style she lives, thinking he is just a head hunter for a recruitment agency. She is in the world of art but so is he. She sells it and he steals it, not to or from one another. He also worries about his height and is absolutely in love with his own hair, which almost proved the end of him. Narrated in the first person through the eyes of Roger Brown the reader need not expect much in the way of self criticism.
But in a world of prickly characters Roger Brown grows on the reader. The more reflective and less impulsive he becomes the more he burrows under the surface of the imagination. While he comes over as a bit of a rotter (not the In The Flesh type) in the earlier stages, events strip away the smug self assuredness. Ruthless necessity usurps greedy opportunism, and all done in a good cause – saving Roger’s neck. The humour oils the wheels of the narrative but is sufficiently black not to compromise the seriousness of the plot.
Clas Greve the one time Dutch Special Forces soldier assumes Roger is there for the taking. Roger thinks initially that Greve’s painting is there for the taking and so the two are thrust into a battle on terrain more suitable to Greve’s experience and training than Roger’s. Because most of the characters in this novel offer something that makes them smell, they irritate the reader, so sympathy hardly abounds when they meet the range of fates that awaits them.
A book that contains much violence, the gratuitous nature of it, if situated in real life, does not make it look out of place in the world of fiction. If Roger Brown is a successful headhunter, so too is his creator. Jo Nesbo has successfully recruited me to his literature, a small shelf of it now waiting to be devoured.
Jo Nesbo, 2011, Headhunters. Harvill Secker: London. ISBN 978-1-846-55593-0